Researchers and Window Farmers

Harry Potter Herbology, catnip, wolves in Yellowstone, lending libraries, and bamboo in the morning. Window farming in the afternoon. The last few weeks have been filled with researching, experimenting and building.

Each morning during our personal project time, our Chartreuse Band research team has been spending its time taking notes while reading up on a variety of topics. Looking to bolster their collections of online resources, we travelled to the library to check out books. We’ve had mini lessons on note taking and organization, considering their audience, and writing outlines. They are beginning to see that taking these steps will help them write a stronger, more organized and thorough research paper.

To support their research, they have been working on various projects. Our bamboo researchers, Selina and Aurora, are looking forward to building small items such as cups and cat bowls out of bamboo they were gifted by the All In Common Community Garden. Luckily for them, they have bamboo (bike) expert Piper in the building who has shown them how to blow torch their bamboo as the first step to heat treating it.

Drying out bamboo. #chartreuseband #seed #bamboo #blowtorches #sfbrightworks

A video posted by Brightworks Chartreuse Band (@bwxmelissa) on

Drying out bamboo. #chartreuseband #seed #bamboo #blowtorches #sfbrightworks

A video posted by Brightworks Chartreuse Band (@bwxmelissa) on


Clementine is focused on designing and building lending libraries for local community gardens. She’s learning Google SketchUp to assist her in the design and planning of her libraries. Her design includes a planter on top to help incorporate the library into the surrounding garden. Her next steps include conducting a book drive to collect books to supply the libraries with.

Cutting boards for community garden lending libraries. #chartreuseband #seed #lendinglibraries #sfbrightworks

A video posted by Brightworks Chartreuse Band (@bwxmelissa) on

This past weekend, Nora sent home bundles of fresh catnip with a number of cat owning students at Brightworks, along with a link to a questionnaire to complete once they have given their cats the catnip. She’s very excited to compare the Brightworks’ cat population results to those of research she’s read about.

catnip questionnaire

Justin and Quinn have been improving their Prezi skills as a way to present their research on the impact the return of the grey wolf to Yellowstone Park had on its native plants. Trudy is looking forward to creating a few models based on her Harry Potter Herbology and magical plant research.

Our afternoons switch to group project time, and my team has been working hard at building a window farm. After researching the necessary supplies and creating a spreadsheet organizing them, we took a trip to Lowe’s to purchase the last remaining items we couldn’t find online. They’ve drank lots of bottled water (thanks Blue Band for helping us out) in order to empty the plastic bottles needed to house the growing plants, before applying a coat of white spray paint needed to protect the plants’ roots. They planted seeds in rock wool growcubes. They carved out and drilled out holes to create openings, for plants to grow and plumbing to go. They strung them up with paracord and learned how to straighten out our curled up vinyl tubing (hot water is a lifesaver). This coming week we must tackle the trickiest part: the plumbing system.

window farming project

window farming project

window farming project

window farming project

window farming project

window farming project

window farming project

Window farming

In the end, the BWX Window Farmers hope to grow enough food to share with their band and hopefully the entire school community.

edits and more edits

Edits and more edits on Movie arc projects.

Ian carefully shapes his fire alarm prop for Quinn’s zombie movie.


Harry reviews his scenes for his practical effects film.


Quinn’s zombies get ready for their close-ups.


Evan knocks out his to-do list of edits.

@evan_sfbrightworks knocking out a to-do list of edits we discussed this morning. 😄

Jane prepares her final storyboard for Pugzilla!

@janedawsonbwx prepares her final storyboard for Pugzilla!

Amelia has one of the most thorough and detailed website portfolios in the Blue Band. She’s adding descriptions for the videos she created this arc.

Amelia has one of the most thorough and detailed website portfolios in the band. She's currently adding descriptions for the videos she created this arc.

JP slays pesky grainy footage in Adobe After Effects.

@jp.barbagelata slays pesky grainy footage in Adobe After Effects

Laurel and Josh take some time for some much-needed swing maintenance.

@_laurelpikachu and @coasterfreekjoshsf take some time for some much needed swing maintenance

Jack secluded himself under the Theater Room stairs to source images for his film history video.

Jack secluded himself under the Theater Room stairs to source images for his film history video

Aidan spray-paints his painstakingly detailed airplane model outside on the ledge.


Full house in the new Phillip Fillastre Treehouse Institute for Science and Technology! 😎✌️ AKA the shiny computer lab of editing and working students.

Full house in the new Phillip Fillastre Treehouse Institute for Science and Technology 😎✌️

lots of filming

Lots of filming and refilming, lots of coordinating and learning from mistakes, lots of high emotions and stress and productivity to be had these days at the Brightworks Movie Studio…

The Green Band learned about digital animation from Michelangelo.


Khalia’s set for her movie-in-a-week challenge.



Max’s yellow wallpaper came for his movie of The Yellow Wallpaper, based on his script from the Book arc!


On set for The Yellow Wallpaper.




Green Band at Glen Park, filming Julian’s Roman battle epic.





The Red Band has been learning about bees and pollination from Rich.



Indigo Band meets.



Green Band, more movie screening and filming.



Josh experiments with digital animation.

@coasterfreekjoshsf animating the crap outta some dragons! 🔥🐍

Laurel and JP in the new editing lab between the Blue and Green bandspaces.

Yay Adobe After Effects!

Quinn is finishing the last pieces of his zombie movie… with lots of makeup.


@janedawsonbwx as a zombie!


book arc projects

We’ve been back from winter break for a week and projects are really starting to pick up steam! At Brightworks, we have become more deliberate about project time and have set out several parameters that students must meet in order to be able to work on their own, completely independent project for the arc.

Students working on independent projects…
– Take initiative.
– Seek challenges outside your comfort zone.
– Embrace assigned work, even if you’re not initially excited by it.
– Finish tasks.
– Remember responsibilities without being reminded. Come prepared.
– Choose to bring work home.
– Seek and incorporate feedback.
– Show resilience in the face of failure.
– Treat others with love, respect and consideration.

Many students reach this point and, with the help and guidance of their collaborator, plan their independent project work for the arc. Most of the students in the Indigo Band are at this point, working on screenplay adaptations of books, short story collections, or memoirs. The Green Band is also dividing into smaller independent projects that are direct offshoots of the experts and experiences from the exploration phase of the Book arc.

But during expression for the Book arc, many students are choosing to work with their band on a group project, a single idea or goal that each student finds an individual pathway to. These group projects are independent projects in disguise, but provide collaborators with a greater ability to manage eight complex pathways and give students the best opportunity to succeed as they work through both the project itself and project management skills that they may not have perfected yet.


For example, the Orange Band as a whole is working on a creating a computer game based on the story arc and using the coding that they have been learning from Gever, and each student is taking a route to that end goal with a different approach – text adventure or choose-your-own-adventure story – and their own plotlines.


The project for the Blue Band is a book of the school year, based on all eight students’ blog posts since the beginning of the last arc. They have divided up the various events and experiences since September – the Mendocino trip, the Rosetta comet landing sleepover, various building projects, NaNoWriMo, etc – and are using the grammar and writing lessons that Phillip has been giving them to write a narrative of their band in third person.


The Yellow Band is doing a group project but each writing their own version of a zine with original writing and illustration from their arc. They are experimenting with making paper out of different materials for their covers and have been composing fiction and drawings for their pages.


Students in the Red Band are collaborating to create a coauthored book about love and friendship. They are brainstorming together and splitting up the responsibilities of writing and illustrating a book, taking inspiration from their author study on Mo Willems. The book, they hope, will become a guidebook for incoming students next year and years after, and are playing with the idea of including ideas about love and friendship from older students at Brightworks.

We are excited to watch these projects develop and unfold, as well as continue to foster project management skills in our students as they iterate, create, explore, and do.

ending of project phase

Brightworks student presentations are happening next week! Project phase – as well as the month of May in general – just flies by and I can’t believe we’re already approaching the end of the school eyar. These past few weeks have been a frenzy of activity as the kids put the final touches on their projects, last edits on their movies, test runs of their mirror mazes, marshmallow roast and pie baking testing, and putting the finishing brushstrokes on their portraits. We are so excited to see what they present to the school for this Mirrors arc.


elephant progress

The Elephants’ projects are coming along! Oscar, Rhone, and Lukas are working on a telescope, and Norabelle has been coming a long way on her bust sculpture.